So what do you do in specific situations when you have real, live enemies? This is the topic that we want to cover today. In our previous two articles we covered the topic of fearing people’s opinions about you, specifically when you are called by God to a certain mission and why we tend to fear. We discovered that God has an answer for us at all times. In our Western world we generally do not face physical persecution for living out our faith and sharing the Gospel through the disciple making process. This is not the case in the rest of the world. Many Christians around the world are severely persecuted for their faith in Christ Jesus. I have some friends from Muslim backgrounds who have faced and endured some of the harshest physical as well as psychological persecution one can imagine just for the simple fact that they chose to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, rejecting their dead religion and choosing a personal relationship with God that transformed their lives. What do you do when enemies threaten you because you live out your faith? What do you do when you are threatened with terrible consequences if you continue making disciples? The Word of God has our answers.
Follow the example of King David
4 Let all worshipers of the Lord now say, that his mercy is unchanging for ever. 5 I made my prayer to the Lord in my trouble: and the Lord gave me an answer, and put me in a wide place. 6 The Lord is on my side; I will have no fear: what is man able to do to me? 7 The Lord is my great helper: I will see my desire against my haters. 8 It is better to have faith in the Lord than to put one’s hope in man. 9 It is better to have faith in the Lord than to put one’s hope in rulers. (Psalm 118)
The first thing that you have to do is to continue worshiping the Lord, especially when your enemies come as a result of your faith and personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Those who persecute you because of your faith are actually doing so because of the focus or target of your faith, Jesus Christ. He was persecuted when He walked this earth and He told all of His followers that they would be persecuted just as He was persecuted. Do not stop worshiping God simply because that worship brings about persecution. Do not fear those who persecute you because they are actually persecuting the One whom you worship. The second thing that you must do is realize that the God whom you worship is full of mercy. Appeal to His mercy in the midst of your troubles. Cry out to Him. Call to Him. He already knows your situation but He wants you to depend upon Him and humbly call out to Him for help instead of trying to fix it on your own. Pray to Him. Talk with Him about the situation. Let Him know about your enemies (even though He already does). The prayer is to change you, not Him. Learn to wait patiently on the Lord’s answer and be confident in His answer. David was on the run from his enemies for a long time. He was surrounded by them, in a tight place or as we say, “in between a rock and a hard place” yet he knew his God and he knew what his God could do. When He answered David, He took him from that “tight” spot and put him in a wide place. In other words, He rescued him from that rock and hard place. He will always do that for you. Just keep in mind that the rescue may not be exactly what you had in mind. Richard Wurmbrand, founder of “Voice of the Martyrs” was rescued by being placed in prison for over 14 years and tortured constantly. Of course, while there, he was able to disciple countless numbers of people and share the Gospel with the atheist guards on a daily basis. The third thing to keep in mind is that the Lord is by your side in the midst of every situation, even the bad ones and while you are being persecuted by your enemies, keep in mind that He will see you through the situation and use it for your own good and especially for the furtherance of the Gospel. The fourth thing that you must understand is that while suffering because of your enemies, trust in the Lord and not in man (not even in your leaders because they will ultimately fail you while the Lord never will). Many times, especially as Westerners, we trust in our rights more than we trust in God. Rights are good but what do you do when those rights are all stripped away? Where will you turn when all is taken from you (your enemies would love nothing other than taking everything away and see how you respond)? David knew the answer. He had already been anointed King yet he was suffering at the hands of the current king, Saul. David did not make an appeal for his rights. Instead, he trusted in the Lord and patiently waited until the Lord brought about His will.
Allow God to fight for you
In the book of Deuteronomy we learn all kinds of practical advice for daily living. The book of the Law was given to Moses by God and then Moses was to teach these Laws to the people. The people were to organize their lives around this Law, leading their families by It, teaching It to their children, conducting business etc. One of their pieces of practical advice was what to do when you have physical enemies who want to do harm to you. What do you do? God gives the answer. All of us will have enemies at one time or another so we need to know how to handle them, what to do step by step. God knows this and offers great advice.
1 When you march out to battle your enemies and you see horses, chariots, and a fighting force larger than yours, don’t be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, the one who brought you up from Egypt, is with you. 2 As you advance toward the war, the priest will come forward and will address the troops. 3 He will say to them: “Listen, Israel: Right now you are advancing to wage war against your enemies. Don’t be discouraged! Don’t be afraid! Don’t panic! Don’t shake in fear on account of them, 4 because the LORD your God is going with you to fight your enemies for you and to save you.”
First of all, do not focus on the size of the enemy. Many times, when we have enemies, when we go through difficult times and situations, we lose focus on God and pay more attention to the enemies and problems. God wants us to focus on our relationship with Him, especially when difficult times come and we are surrounded by powerful enemies. The Israelite slaves brought down the Egyptian empire, not because they were so awesome but because they looked to God for deliverance and He did not disappoint. As they were entering the Promised Land, they were to remember that event and follow the same procedure when new, bigger and stronger enemies surrounded them. Do not be afraid. This is the command from God. He goes on to explain what that means and how it is possible. They were to fear (respect) the Lord more than their enemies. They were to remember His previous actions. Finally, they were to realize that God was going before them and fighting for them. If we are children of God then He is on our side. He wants the best for us. He wants to be our Good Shepherd and He will defend us from our enemies at the right time (according to His plan and not our own). The apostle Paul gives some good advice for dealing with your enemies and I would like to take a look at it for a moment to see how it applies to this situation.
18 If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. 19 Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says the Lord. 20 Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. (Romans 12)
Do all that you can to be reconciled with your enemies because God wants us to build relationships with others, not fight with them. Serve your enemy the best way that you can. Meet his physical needs when possible with the purpose of sharing the Gospel and converting him or her to brotherly love. This is God’s demand of you and when you do your part He will intervene with His own part. Heaping burning coals is a figure of speech that means to melt the hard heart. Doing it God’s way will soften the person’s heart while doing the way of the world will lead to even more anger and fighting. Which mode of procedure do you follow?
I pray that this has been a helpful message for you, helping you overcome your fears, to trust in the Lord, and deal with enemies. May God bless you as you apply what you have learned.